Environmental and health concerns have begun to motivate many Floridians to speak out against the fracking drilling process.
On Monday, Sen. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) and Sen. Dwight Bullard (D-Miami) filed legislation that aims to ban fracking in Florida. The same day, Soto and other supporters for the anti-fracking legislation held a press conference outside the Orange County Administration building.
Soto spoke to members of the media about the dangers of fracking and the potential consequences the state could face as a result of the practice.
“We in Florida have a tradition of conservation,” Soto said. “We have a tradition of protecting our rivers, our water bodies, our beaches, our springs.”
He also said that, on top of the environmental concerns, the drilling process could harm the state’s economy.
“It’s more than just our water supply. It also has to do with the fact that we have a quality of life that we have come to enjoy,” he said. “If we have oil shooting up through the ground in these areas, it would not only wreck our quality of life, it could wreck millions of jobs in our tourism industry.”
Soto and Bullard have been trying to get their bill on the agenda for months. Last session, a pro-fracking bill made it to the Senate floor, but did not pass.
This year, Soto and Bullard made adjustments to the bill. It now includes acid simulation and other manners of fracking that weren’t in the last copy.
Fracking, which is short for hydraulic fracturing, is a process that involves drilling into the earth and then releasing a high-pressure water mixture at the rock to extract oil and natural gas. The water is mixed with sand and chemicals. It has garnered a lot of controversy throughout its environmental impact nationwide. It is popular in many of the states, including Oklahoma, Wyoming and Pennsylvania.
Florida has only had two fracking cases so far. One of them involved the Texas-based company Dan. A Hughes Co. illegally using the practice just a few miles away from the Everglades in Naples in 2013.
Some opponents of fracking said that it is the novelty of the practice in the state that is so worrying. Florida has a different foundation because of its limestone structure, which makes it prone to sinkholes.
“You know what happens when the water table drops and then you put any seismic activity into a sinkhole-prone area. I mean, this is a disaster waiting to happen,” said Eric Rollings, Orange County Soil and Water Conservation chairman.
That is why Soto has stressed the preventive nature of his new bill.
“If local governments don’t act right now, they'd be preempted eventually by state law,” Soto said.
Sen. Geraldine Thompson, who also attended the press conference, said in addition to concerns about economic effects fracking could have on our tourism industry, there are also many health concerns involving the drilling process.
“Anytime that you have things that seep down into the aquifer, and then it contaminates the drinking water, you’re going to have health issues.” Thompson said. “It expands chemicals now coming into Florida, and I believe that we are going to have even more health problems.”
Rollings said that State Representative Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, who represents District 49 where UCF is located, might also give his support for the bill, but hasn’t yet made an official announcement.
Soto said this a problem that students should be especially concerned about.
“Young people should be concerned because you all are going to be the ones to inherit this state some day,” he said. “I think it’s critical that we leave it in as good, if not better, condition than when we in the legislature became stewards of it.”
Lisa Ray, a UCF alumna and associate supervisor for Orange County Soil and Water Conservation, agreed with Soto. She said that students should think about how water contamination could put their health at risk.
“I feel that the people of Florida should not be test subjects,” Ray said. “The government of the state should be looking out for the public safety of the citizens of Florida first and foremost.”
Rollings said that students should also think about their futures, especially as potential homeowners.
“If you want to buy a house, this could affect your property values” Rollings said. “Especially with students coming right out of college. They need opportunities. They’re settled with so much student debt, that anything that could affect their quality of life … it could be devastating to them.”
Deanna Ferrante is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.